The Year of the Nurse: Celebrating their essential role in health care


In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the World Health Organization (WHO), backed by the American Nurses Association (ANA), has declared 2020 The Year of the Nurse, a designation to recognize the essential role nurses have in bringing health care to everyone.

Health care is in great demand and nurses are there to practice in all settings and to fill new roles and responsibilities in order to meet this ever-growing need. As a result, nurses comprise the largest group of healthcare professionals in the United States. All families have been touched by their holistic care.

In an impressive 18-year streak, Americans have consistently rated nurses as the No. 1 most ethical and honest profession, according to Gallup. Being named the most honest and ethical profession is a testament to the public’s trust in, and respect of, nurses.

As an essential link between people, communities, and complex health care systems, nurses play a vital health care role. They provide an enormous contribution to rapid, cost-effective and high quality health care.

For sure, a multi-disciplinary team of health care professionals is critical to all patient care. However, nurses rarely miss a beat as the heart of health teams. Nurses are with patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the entire life cycle.

By 2030, to meet the demand in the United States, another 1.2 million nurses will be needed. Raising the profile of nursing and highlighting the importance of well-educated nurses, investing in recruitment and retention plans, and removing the barriers to the development of advanced nursing roles, are effective strategies for expanded health care coverage. Enhancing and promoting the role of the nurse will improve health outcomes for all people, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

This year provides a wonderful opportunity to highlight the enormous sacrifices and contributions of nurses everywhere. The ANA invites nurses to share their stories with the hashtag #YON2020 and #YearoftheNurse.

Nightingale’s nickname, “The Lady with the Lamp,” was inspired by serving as a trainer of nurses during the Crimean War. While medical officers slept, Nightingale used her lamp to make nightly rounds and care for wounded soldiers.

In using her lamp to illuminate the role of nurses, Nightingale was able to spotlight the difference they make in the lives of people. The designation of 2020 as the Year of the Nurse will hopefully provide everyone with a new appreciation, and 20/20 vision of nursing.

The future is bright. Shine on, nurses.

Alice Holland, PhD, NP-C, AASECT certified, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nursing and Health Professions at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

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